I'm not even going to go into the debate about whether darkvision can see through hunger of hadar, the thing that I think makes it overpowered is the this line.

creatures fully within the area are blinded.

That isn't 'they can't see.' Or, 'creatures without Darkvision can't see.' Or 'make a saving throw or be blinded for the duration.' It straight up says creatures fully within the area are blinded, no save, ever. There's no condition under which the blindness goes away, it doesn't say that when the creature leaves the area the condition ends, it doesn't say that when the spell ends the condition ends. The creature is blind.

I assume a lesser restoration could fix this since that ends the blindness condition, but what's the likelihood of a group of baddies having that available to fix all of them suddenly, from going totally and permanently blind? So one third level spell and an entire group of baddies regardless of level have been virtually neutralized. The only chance they have after that is if they have Tremorsense or Blindsight. How is a spell that does this third level?


As written, yes, hunger of Hadar is “seriously overpowered.”

What is written for hunger of Hadar is that “creatures fully within the area are blinded.” Even as an English phrase, “are blinded” is an event, something that has happened to a creature; absent any context, we generally assume that it’s permanent. Consider how common the phrase “temporarily blinded” is, just avoid that assumption.

Now, in context, we have the actual game rules about conditions. Those say

A condition lasts either until it is countered (the prone condition is countered by standing up, for example) or for a duration specified by the effect that imposed the condition.

Here we have “A condition lasts until,” that is, until one of the following events take place, the condition lasts, period. Then we have two events listed after “until,” either of which is sufficient to stop the condition from continuing to last:

  1. the condition is “countered,” or

  2. a “duration specified by the effect that imposed the condition” runs out.

But hunger of Hadar doesn’t build in any special circumstances that counter the blindness, so only generic effects that can remove blindness—e.g. lesser restoration—are going to apply. Even dispel magic and the like are somewhat dubious: those can remove hunger of Hadar’s shadows and stop it from blinding anyone else, but it’s not clear that the blindness condition itself is a spell effect that can be dispelled.

And hunger of Hadar also does not specify any duration for the blindness condition. It just says “creatures fully within the area are blinded,” nothing more. Nothing about that blindness ending at any point.

That leaves us with hunger of Hadar permanently blinding every creature that has ever been “fully within the area.” And yes, permanent blindness applied to every creature that ever found itself within hunger of Hadar is seriously overpowered, and that is what is written, technically, in the books.

But we can give more context here—our familiarity and expectations of the game. One of those is that things shouldn’t be “seriously overpowered,” as we just determined hunger of Hadar is, as written. It seems likely that the authors and editors of hunger of Hadar forgot that conditions basically default to permanent, or missed its implications, and considered their wording as “obviously” meaning the condition only applies as long as creatures are within. It seems they almost-certainly meant that the creatures are blinded for a duration equal to however long they stay fully within the area of hunger of Hadar, or that (partially) leaving the area of hunger of Hadar counters the blindness. That would make for a reasonable spell. That is how the majority of people, it seems, assume the spell works, because they assume the spell isn’t “seriously overpowered” and read it within that context without checking the actual technical definitions.

But the game’s authors, really, should have double-checked. They should have included that duration, or that countering event, in the rules text. It wouldn’t have taken much, just a clause like “until they leave the area” in the description. But they didn’t include that. They made a mistake, it seems.

Mistakes happen; there are a lot of interactions in a game system, and ultimately they’re all interpreted by a person who may inject their own sensibilities into things—making it very difficult to recognize that those sensibilities had to be injected in the first place. Ultimately, being careful with that is part of what we pay a game developer for; a large chunk of the value they purport to offer to customers is their expertise and care that allows them to provide more consistent and balanced material than you could do on your own. They didn’t here; that failure counts, even if it is easily corrected. It is fair, I think, to “hold it against them,” to some extent—and if this kind of thing happens a lot, for that to damage your perception of the quality of their product.

But in the end, there will always be mistakes. That’s unavoidable. If you find that 5e is just rife with issues like these, that’s a knock against it. If it happens only rarely, though, then it’s a sign that it’s well-made—don’t over-emphasize any single mistake either. I leave the adjudication on the relative frequency here to others. Hopefully, Wizards of the Coast will explicitly mention at some point that hunger of Hadar only blinds things for as long as they’re within. But in the meantime, their mistake is no reason for you to allow it to mess with your game. You easily can, and should, correct for it yourself.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 28 '18 at 0:23

The spell says (emphasis mine):

No light, magical or otherwise, can illuminate the area, and creatures fully within the area are blinded.

Once a creature is not fully inside the area this condition doesn't apply anymore and the creature stops being effectively blind. They just have to move.

If the condition was permanent it would say so and there is no time limit because there is a different condition - staying fully inside the area. (That's basically an implicit time limit depending on the spells duration.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 23 '18 at 12:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ The spell does not mention that the blindness goes away after a creature moves out of the effected area. Do you have any source to support your statement? \$\endgroup\$
    – Vadruk
    May 11 '20 at 12:02

The use of the term “blinded” is to invoke the blinded condition, so it is clear what the effects are. (Though in regular English “blinded” means “made blind”, and doesn’t usually imply permanence, as in “she was blinded by the sun” or “the light was blinding” etc.) As mentioned by Secespitus, the condition for being blinded is being completely in the area, so creatures are no longer blinded when they leave. Also, since the area ceases to exist at the end of the spell, the blinded condition will also end when the spell ends.


Because the rules aren't meant to be used as written

5e's rules are not intended to be used as written. Many parts of the system, especially but not exclusively parts that are content within the framework rather than the framework itself, are just completely non-functional as written. Many of the parts that are at least technically functional nonetheless have major issues. So, since the designers weren't trying to make something that made sense or was balanced if you pay attention to their wording, it's not surprising they didn't end up with something that fits those requirements.

Instead, 5e expects to to make up your own rules that fit those requirements that are sort of kind of like the rules/content they provide, only instead it works, and also when new things come up and then it doesn't work any more you then change your rulings to something new. In this case, 5e expects that the blindness will end as soon as the creature leaves the area or the spell ends. It's true that's not at all what the spell says, nor how the rules for conditions work, and it breaks other stuff if you try to make that a general principle for ending conditions. Nonetheless, that's what is expected here, and that's why the spell is third level (because blindness no-save that you can end with movement is roughly a 3rd level effect when you add in the other benefits; Darkness is 2nd level and has no other benefits. It's a really good 3rd level spell, but it's not on the same level as e.g. Banishment or Greater Invisibility).

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have some reference or source for this? \$\endgroup\$
    – Clonkex
    Apr 23 '18 at 3:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ I fully believe you, but this doesn't answer the OP's question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Apr 23 '18 at 3:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Yakk OP's question is 'why is this third level', I thought. Do you think I should expound more on what the intended reading of the spell is balanced around? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 23 '18 at 6:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ My downvote is specifically regarding the premise that 5e is not intended to be used as written. There are many rules, comments from the game designers, and errata when there are issues that aren't covered by the rules that suggest that 5e is intended to be used as written (accepting that you are encouraged to make it your own when applicable. ) \$\endgroup\$
    – Luke
    Apr 23 '18 at 6:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer I think it's not as obvious that the rules shouldn't be taken as law as you seem to be saying in your answer. I suspect that's the main reason you're being downvoted. I would suggest that if you genuinely believe the rules should not be implemented exactly as written, you need to find some source or reference from the authors of the rules stating as such. Most people seem to think (as I do) that the rules are intended to be used exactly as written, but that in the case the OP's question, it was mistakenly written in an unclear way. \$\endgroup\$
    – Clonkex
    Apr 24 '18 at 6:35

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